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Pennsylvania's farmers are getting older and the amount of farm land is being reduced

Updated: Friday, February 21 2014, 06:31 PM CST
Reported by Donna Kirker-Morgan:

CENTERVILLE -- A new federal census report on agriculture says the number of farms and the amount of land being used for farming is down in Pennsylvania.  The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau says another statistic about the growing age of farmers may be even more important.

Joshua Barrick actually bucks the trend. He joined the family business as a young man, helping to run a 700 acre Cumberland County farm

“I went to college, had other options but it’s always what I liked to do,” Joshua said.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture says that the age of farm operators continues to climb in Pennsylvania. The census says it’s now at an average of 56.1 for the farm’s operator.

The average age in the last census for 2007 was 55.2. Age could become a major factor in Pennsylvania's farming future.

Mark O’Neill with the Pa. Farm Bureau says farmers are getting older, they are retiring, they are passing on and new young blood is not necessarily taking over.

The census also shows a loss of farm acreage in Pennsylvania and a reduced number of farms. The land in farms in Pennsylvania showed a reduction from the 2007 census, declining from 7.8 million acres to 7.7 million acres. The number of farms was also down from 63,163 in 2007 to 59,302 in 2012.

It's the second statistic that the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau will analyze closer to see if this a good trend or bad.

O’Neill explains some may be selling to another farm operation so there may be one farm where two one or three and that doesn’t mean Pennsylvania is losing its farms. However, this report is preliminary and the bureau will be reviewing the numbers to see if they can support farm growth.

Joshua credits his grandfather for buying much of their farm land back in the 70’s.  It can support a herd of over 460 dairy cows and three families.

While the number of farms may be down, the census reports that market value of farm products have gone up by over 27 percent in the past five years. 

“Pretty good right now, but it’s always going up and down kinds of roller coaster.”

A 15-year look back at the census also show that the number of Pennsylvania farms is about the same in the 2012 report as it was in the 1997 census.
Pennsylvania's farmers are getting older and the amount of farm land is being reduced


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